Sri Lanka: Lessons learnt?

By R.K. Radhaskrishnan

, by Frontline

Post UNHRC resolution, the theme of “betrayal” and “conspiracy” has taken centre stage in the country.

Ever since the guns fell silent in May 2009 in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, which was once held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), there has not been a single instance of residual elements staging an attack. It was a complete victory – every ranking LTTE leader was either killed or captured.

Before long, the Sri Lanka Armed Forces began a deliberate – but admittedly sound – policy of occupying large swathes of the province. This was to ensure that the forces could respond quickly in an emergency and to abort the formation of yet another LTTE-type outfit. Diplomatic sources confirm that for every four civilians there is a soldier in the Northern Province. In essence, the Sri Lankan response in the immediate aftermath of the victory over the Tigers was to treat the whole Tamil ethnic question as a law and order problem.

Army ex-servicemen were encouraged to set up shops along A-9, the main highway that connects the national capital, Colombo, to Jaffna, the capital of the Northern Province. The Army itself is intricately involved in economic activity in the province and in some cases has supplanted the livelihoods of populations it was sent in to protect. A senior leader of the main opposition, the United National Party, described the Army’s foray into civilian spheres of activity as one fraught with danger for any democracy.

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